This article was written by Tim Bitirim, a recent intern at the office of Diane James MEP.
I am a History, English and Sociology student with a particular interest on topics surrounding the European Union and particularly Britain’s relationship with it and I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to work with Diane James MEP for four days in July 2017 during a Strasbourg plenary session.
I met Diane and her team upon arrival and was given a tour of the Strasbourg parliament by Diane. I was amazed by the lavish nature of the parliament. There were impressive stairways and bridges linking the different sections, admittedly it was easy to get lost. There were many tourists who were taking photographs of the flags of the nations, partaking in virtual tours and viewing the plenary while being greeted by smiling ushers with likeable European accents.
Amongst the pleasantries, I couldn’t help but wonder, why on earth this building is necessary? Hundreds of bureaucrats travel to Strasbourg from Brussels 12 times a year for only four days at the cost of 150 million pounds a year to the EU taxpayer. It seemed to me an absurd waste of money and I couldn’t understand why this transfer exists. The answer was, the only reason the EU travels to Strasbourg each time is because the power of one state can override the wishes of Europe as a whole. Strasbourg is supposedly symbolic to post war-reconciliation and this is why the French insist on moving the headquarters to Strasbourg.
Straight away I was aware of the EU’s undemocratic nature and ethos.
On my second day at the Parliament I was attending a plenary session concerning the Maltese Presidency. It was early in the morning and the chamber looked slightly empty. I was expecting an element of banality on one of the smallest European state’s affairs. However I was in luck and got to witness plenty of controversy. I hadn’t witnessed belligerence towards the United Kingdom thus far, after seeing the United Kingdom flag still flying outside the entrance with the other states, and witnessing buildings named after Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. However, this changed when the Maltese president Joseph Muscat branded Brexit as a “disastrous creature” claiming the EU did not do enough to stop the UK exiting the bloc”. This showed me a clear example of EU fanaticism and attempts to subvert democracy.
It was comical to me that the leader of one of the smallest nation in the European Union was insinuating the EU should not have allowed the British people to exercise their right to vote in a fair referendum and insinuating they should simply be ignored.
The controversy was not over. Mr Juncker, President of the European Commission then spoke and applauded the Maltese President. He then made several contentious remarks himself. He often describes the EU as a family and I definitely felt like I was in my family living room as I witnessed a feud take place between the President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani and Mr Junker.
It all began when Mr Juncker altered a speech to deliver a brutal tongue-lashing to MEPs, branding the Parliament “totally ridiculous” and vowing never to attend any of its meetings again. That provoked a furious response by a raging Mr Tajani, who told his counterpart to show some respect to the directly elected institution and insisted that the Parliament “should control” the Commission.
In addition to watching the plenary I was also fortunate enough to attend a Political Group event about a report warning of the security dangers of a Russian gas pipeline. It was interesting as one of the questions I wanted answered was; What could you achieve through being in the European Union, which you could not achieve, through normal bilateral negotiations?
I found this discussion interesting as the main Europhile argument was that the project has brought peace to Europe after much blood spill, however, I left the event feeling that I had now witnessed first-hand how the EU could inflame tensions between it and Russia.
My other activities included reviewing voting lists and motions for resolutions. The motions for resolutions were particularly interesting as I was able to do some research about subjects involving illegal detention, ethnic cleansing and human rights violations.
I could also see how to EU interferes in other nations affairs and come to a logical conclusion of whether it is a beneficial or harmful thing to do.
It was interesting to witness the challenge of being an independent MEP. The individual groups inside the parliament with a superior majority, have larger budgets and more influence. This system suits the EU as it is easy to approach these groups and influence them.
I also witnessed Diane speak in the plenary which was inspiring to me as such a daunting task was performed with ease and eloquence.
In conclusion my work experience at the European Parliament was insightful and enjoyable. I want to thank Diane and her team, Kim and Giovanna for making my experience worthwhile and memorable.
If you wish to do an internship with Diane James MEP, please contact Kim Clinch here.